The captain of the Swedish men’s goalball team, Fatmir Seremeti, has revealed that he was going to retire after the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games but changed his mind when his country was awarded the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships.
Now in his 30s, Seremeti was part of the squad that just missed out on bronze in Rio. His thoughts after the Paralympics turned to retirement following nearly two decades at the top of the sport. This included a world title in 2002.
But when Malmö was named as the host for the 2018 World Championships between 3-8 June, the Swede reconsidered.
“Actually my plans were to retire after Rio de Janeiro in 2016. But then we got the World Championships at home, so it became difficult to quit! And now if we medal in Malmö, which we are definitely aiming for, then we are through to Tokyo 2020.
“I also have a contract with Sporting Club de Portugal [club team] until 2020. For me, I kind of changed my mind until at least 2020.
“Every athlete on this level would want to play a World Championships on their home ground.”
With his mind firmly on leading his team to the podium for the first time since 2006, Seremeti said they have been working hard on one particular area of their game.
“Every team has very good throwers, so it won’t be a problem making goals but the team that has the best defence will succeed, so that’s what we are aiming for, to get our defence in shape for the Worlds,” he said.
Sweden are relying on the same faces that took them to the brink of a medal at Rio 2016 with Stefan Gahne, Nils Posse and Mikael Akerberg returning. The team suffered and agonising overtime loss (6-5) in overtime against Brazil.
With a home World Championships a once in a lifetime opportunity, Seremeti believes that it is possible for his team to claim silverware once again. Maybe they can even put the ghosts of the last Paralympics to rest.
“Obviously we have secrets like other team sports so what we are working at right now, I can’t tell you, but what I can tell you is that we know our challenges, we know what we need to work at and we are working at it very specifically and with a clear goal at what we are doing.
“Of course Sweden has been a really great goalball country but it’s difficult for everyone I think to get on the podium. We can see that Lithuania won the Paralympics in Rio and at the Intercup [in Malmö in April] they finished seventh, so I think goalball is really developing at a fast pace and it’s difficult for one country to dominate as Sweden did in the early 2000s.”
With most of the physical preparations now behind them, Sweden are relying on their experience and mental strength to perform at one of the most important competitions of their careers.
“We are trying to prepare ourselves mentally for our seventh player, that is of course our supporters. Everyone wants to come and see us play but they also want us to win and have success at the home venues so of course it’s a mental challenge to be able to comprehend that.
“Many of our players have been around for a long time and have been playing at major international Championships so they know what’s coming.”
The group stages of the 2018 IBSA Goalball World Championships will take place from 3-7 June. The quarterfinals will get underway on 7 June before the medal matches on 8 June.
Tickets are available at the Malmö 2018 website.
Matches will be played across two venues on the same complex - the Baltiska Hallen and Baltiska träningshallen. The medallists from both the men's and women's will qualify for Tokyo 2020.
Picture credit: Parasport Sweden